By Mardee Handler, managing editor

The Big Apple was recently identified as the best U.S. city for public transportation by Walk Score, which ranked public transit options in 316 cities across the country. New York City, with a transit score of 81, was followed by San Francisco (80), Boston (75), Washington, D.C. (70) and Philadelphia (67).

None of the U.S. cities (or international cities, for that matter) considered in the report landed in Walk Score’s top echelon of “Rider’s Paradise,” which includes cities with world-class public transportation, earning a transit score of 90-100.

Public transportation plays an increasingly important role in communities of all size across the nation.

Four of the five top U.S. cities earned a score of 70-89, placing them in the “Excellent Transit” status, meaning transit is convenient for most trips. At the bottom of Walk Score’s transit rankings are “Minimal Transit” cities with a score of 0-24, where “it is possible to get on a bus.” Colorado Springs, Fort Worth, Raleigh and Indianapolis had transit scores below 24.

Only cities with a population of 500,000 or greater were considered for Walk Score’s Top Ten Transit Cities list, although smaller cities were eligible to rank as Top Transit Cities by region, including Oakland, California, which was named as one of the top three transit cities in the West.

Walk Score calculates transit scores based on data provided by public transit agencies, including route frequency, type of route (rail, bus, etc.), and distance to the nearest stop on the route. Walk Score is a private company that provides data on city residents’ ability to rely on alternatives to car travel, including walking, biking, and public transportation.

Whether you agree or disagree with Walk Score’s methodology for ranking transit systems, it’s hard to dispute the overriding notion that public transportation plays an increasingly important role in communities of all size across the nation.

According to the American Public Transit Association (APTA), “Nearly 2.7 billion trips were taken on U.S. public transportation in the third quarter of 2013 … [representing] a 1.5 percent increase over the same quarter last year.” Ridership has increased in 9 of the past 11 quarters, and in large, medium and small communities across the country.

“This continued demand for public transportation demonstrates the value of public transit to individuals and the communities they live in, no matter their size,” APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy said in the January press release.

The APTA reported an increase in ridership across all modes of public transportation modes for the quarter, led by light rail which increased by 3.1 percent.

Other cities could soon join the ranks of Walk Score’s Top Transit cities, as many cities across the country have plans in the works to enhance and expand public transportation options for commuters.

In the words of APTA’s Micheal Melaniphy, “Some of the public transit systems with the largest ridership increases saw ridership spike as new lines and extensions were added to the existing system … This shows that if you expand public transportation options with new services, additional people will decide to use public transportation.”

While Walk Score began ranking transit systems in 2012, its primary focus is on helping people identify places to live that offer alternatives to driving. The website highlights real estate options – for rent or purchase – in neighborhoods with high walkability scores. The company was founded on the belief that “walkable neighborhoods with access to public transit, shorter commutes, and proximity to the people and places you love are the key to a happier, healthier, more sustainable lifestyle.”

Walk Score’s top five cities, including their Walk, Bike and Transit Scores are as follows:

Walk Score Bike Score Transit Score
New York 87.6 62.3 81.2
San Francisco 83.9 70.0 80.5
Boston 79.5 67.8 74.8
Philadelphia 76.5 68.4 67.0
Miami 75.6 56.5 58.2